Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Modern Strip Returns

It’s been a long time since Elly's snoring has been featured in the strip. In 10/23/1997 there is a strip where John gives Elly nose strips to stop her snoring and then snores himself. In 5/12/1996, when John accuses Elly of snoring, and she accuses him of having a nose whistle and they both agree none of those things are really important.

Looking at those old strips compared to today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, I realized that Lynn Johnston’s drawing of Elly has reverted to the modern version of Elly. John has looked pretty much the same between his new-run and modern self; but Elly had the smaller nose to distinguish her. In today’s new-run, Elly’s nose is just as large as it was in the 1996 and 1997 strips. In fact, the panel 1 drawing of Elly snoring looks like it was lifted off the page of the panel 1 drawing of Elly in 1997. Since January, Lynn Johnston's new-runs have been slipping back into her old "modern" style; but usually with the exception that Elly still looks different. Not today.

Aside from forgetting (again) that John in 1980 did not wear a shirt to bed, Lynn has returned to her “slam John” theme of writing strips. I am disappointed to see that. However, what I did like was that look of fear in Elly’s eyes when she says, “What was I saying?” My wife has occasionally talked in her sleep, and when I repeated what she said back to her the next morning, she had no idea what it had to do with anything she was dreaming. The whole point of the strip's punch line is supposed to be that Elly is concerned about what she said and she can't count on John to remember it for her.

In order for that to make sense, you would have to assume that there was something Elly could be saying in her sleep, she would want John to remember. Or, considering the look of terror, something said perhaps she would not want John to know. Maybe things like, “I love you, Connie. Someday Canada will make same sex marriages legal and when that day comes, you and I will be together, at last.“

Friday, January 30, 2009

Michael Patterson: Funny or Obsessed?

I can take today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse two ways: (1) Michael’s obsession with Deanna Sobinski is not so long-lasting that it overcomes his greed for her spot by the window, or (2) Michael’s obsession with Deanna Sobinski is so long-lasting he wants to sit in her seat in order to preserve her memory.

The case for (1) is mainly that it occurs in the final panel, where Lynn Johnston typically places her punch lines, and the punch line would be funnier if it showed the transitory nature of childhood obsessions.

The case for (2) is stronger. We see in the first 2 panels, Michael begins to associate things with Deanna: her hangar, her cubby. He looks at his classroom and wonders about Deanna in her new school and home. In panel 3, we see that Michael’s obsession with Deanna is so well known, that the preschool teacher immediately recognizes he is thinking about her, even though Michael is doing nothing that I can tell to let her know that he is moping about because he misses Deanna. If I follow this progression, Michael’s request for her seat continues right along with Michael’s object association with Deanna. He wants to take possession of something Deanna had.

The whole idea seems ridiculous. I would much rather think answer (1) is correct. But these new-runs have shown Michael obsessed over Deanna far above anything in the strip shown before in the first 4 years. My biggest problem is that I cannot see a reason for it. Little Michael is so obsessed, it puts later stories with him and Martha or him and Rhetta in jeopardy. How could he even consider another woman, when he knows from preschool the love of his life is Deanna?

Meanwhile, 2 areas of interest wait: (1) Will Lynn Johnston repeat those other Deanna strips from years 1-4? (2) Does the completion of this storyline, that Lynn said she would tell before she started these new-runs, mean we are about to go into the full reprints?

The Tragedy of Michael and Deanna

How many days was Michael out of school? In today's new-run of For Better or For Worse, it looks like it was for Pizza Day, Painting Day, and Movie Day. That’s 3 days at least at what must be the best preschool in the world, which even has bus service. It’s good to know that even though Lawrence is describing all these things Michael missed, the only thing Michael is interested in is seeing Deanna again. The boy is dangerously obsessed.

The tragedy for young Michael is that Deanna left and he didn’t say good-bye to her. Will she have left him a note in his locker? Will she come back to Milborough just to say good-bye to Michael? Or will we simply see Michael go into a deep depression and attack everybody around him? In many respects, Deanna Sobinski should be happy she left while Michael was sick, just to avoid the scene which would have occurred from this obsessed boy during her departure party.

I had thought enough time might have passed since Lynn Johnston introduced the idea of Deanna leaving, that a Coffee Talk comment may have drifted back to her and she might have recanted this idea, in much the same way the Nichols boys magically reverted to their correct ages (1 year old and unborn). Now it is done, and I have no idea how Lynn Johnston is going to handle upcoming reprints that still feature Deanna, unless she treats Deanna like Fred / Frank the fish, by renaming her character to something similar, like Dooma. If I remember Deanna’s later appearances correctly, she looks enough different from time to time in the early years, that a renaming might work.

One of things that strikes me odd is this laundry list of things Mike missed while he was sick coming from Lawrence. The funniest part of this strip is that all these great things happened while Michael was sick. It’s not enough that Deanna left, but days so memorably wonderful that Lawrence can rattle them off days later, also happened, and Lawrence has to point out that everybody participated except Michael. It reminds me of an episode of the Simpsons, where Bart Simpson is forced to stay home as the rest of the school has the best day of their lives. It is not enough that Deanna left, but Lynn Johnston has to milk Michael’s tragedy for everything it’s worth.

As for the joke, Lynn contrasts the word “everybody” with “my body”. I think the joke would work better if “everybody” did not actually mean “every body.” Since it does, all you have is Michael thought-bubbling a correction to Lawrence’s exaggerated counting.

A better visual joke is the bus overhead storage which seems to be filled with military duffel bags. Maybe the preschool on a military base, and the preschoolers have to share a bus used for military transport. And let us not forget the window view with the falling snow. Even in Milborough, back in 1980, it snows every single day in the winter time. Of course, since this is a day of tragedy, snow is appropriate.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Having noticed that their noses are no longer blackened in to make them look like Whos in Whoville in today's For Better or For Worse, Elly declares Michael is well enough to back to preschool. At this point, my reaction is “Preschool? I could swear that the strip started with young Michael in kindergarten. Is Michael getting younger again?”

In my neck of the woods, preschool is before kindergarten. A little internet searching seems to indicate to me that it is the same in Canada. The only clue that in Lynn Johnston’s mind, preschool includes kindergarten, is the school bus. In Arizona, preschool is usually a private school for which there are no buses. If it is the same in Canada, then the appearance of Michael running to the bus tells us that Lynn thinks of preschool like kindergarten. Of course, the other possibility is that Lynn thinks buses run for preschool, just like kindergarten. Maybe in Corbeil, they do.

My kids were very aware of the status differences between preschool and kindergarten, even at the ages when they were in preschool or kindergarten. If my son were in kindergarten and I told him he was going back to preschool after an illness, he would have corrected me. Sadly, Lynn does not have a kindergartener to keep her straight.

The joke of the strip is that Elly is shocked that her child whom she has declared is well, acts like a child who is well, instead of a child who is sick. I remember similar shocks with my kids after they had some cold medicine, which relieved their symptoms. They would go from little sickly, miserable things to little, bouncing-off-the-wall creatures like they were healthy. Then when the medicine wore off and the symptoms returned, they would return to sickly and miserable. Adults, I have found, are much more inclined to continue to act ill, even when they feel better.

We have hit the standard clichés of jokes on kid illness with this sequence. All that’s remaining is for John to get sick after everyone else is better. The new-runs this time actually seem to be telling a story; but it is a very well-worn story. For this kind of thing to work, you need to put some kind of spin on it that makes it unique to For Better or For Worse. I suppose Elly's obsession with disease containment might be such a spin. Or perhaps her "I've never been a mom before" inappropriate reactions. Those are elements there which separate Elly from a standard mother of 5 years going on 4 years.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chesterfield of Comfort - NOT!

I remember seeing the old green-striped chesterfield in the Patterson household for years. I never would have guessed it was uncomfortable to sleep on. Usually when you have a chesterfield for that long, its saving grace is its sleeping comfort. We had an old chesterfield in my house for many years. It was ugly and difficult to clean; but it was great to sleep on. I took many naps there. That’s why it stayed around for so long. Of course, the Pattersons like to suffer, so I would guess the old green-striped chesterfield must be the most uncomfortable thing to sleep or sit on there is around. I can imagine them shopping for it.

Elly: What do you think of this green-striped chesterfield, John?
John: Well, it is uncomfortable; but I always say you can’t go wrong with a good bed of nails.
Elly: I don’t want a bed of nails, John. We need something for the living room, and you can’t just say, “Sit on the bed of nails” when you have company over. It would be too much like a bedroom.
John: How about the bar stools made of concertina wire?
Elly: They don’t seat enough people.
John: OK. OK, Elly. We’ll go with the green-striped chesterfield; but if it’s not uncomfortable enough to keep me awake at night, then we are going to get something different.
Elly: That’s OK, John. I have a feeling we are going to keep that green-striped chesterfield for years.

As for the strip in today's For Better or For Worse, once again the theme is disease containment. Elly doesn’t seek for John to help her with the kids. Keeping John well is Elly’s objective. After all, we can’t have this disease spread any further. Aside from that quirk, it's not too bad a strip. Yes, John does look deformed; but the joke is a visual punch line in the final panel, and that is a nice change from the usual bad pun.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Sure Sign of Illness – Sclera

Considering Elly Patterson and her eating habits, I would not necessarily be inclined to think that a little stomach noise she experiences in today's new-run of For Better or For Worse is going to lead to influenza. What may be a more likely symptom of illness would be the unexpected development of sclera, the whites of your eyes, when you are accustomed to having pupils only. Of course with Elly, we also get a few other things like little spots surrounding her head, a temporary bruise across her cheek, an immediately blackening of her nose, and the unexpected development of larger breasts. How does this compare to the real symptoms of flu?

These are the symptoms of flu
. Please note the one I have highlighted

Influenza - Symptoms
The symptoms of influenza (flu) appear suddenly and often include:
· Fever of 100F to 104F, which can reach 106F when symptoms first develop. Fever is usually continuous, but it may come and go. Fever may be lower in older adults than in children and younger adults. When fever is high, other symptoms usually are more severe.
· Body aches and muscle pain (often severe), commonly in the back, arms, or legs.
· Headache.
· Pain when you move your eyes.
· Fatigue, a general feeling of sickness (malaise), and loss of appetite.
· A dry cough, runny nose, and dry or sore throat. You may not notice these during the first few days of the illness when other symptoms are more severe. As your fever goes away, these symptoms may become more evident.
Influenza usually does not cause symptoms in the stomach or intestines, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Well, Dr. Elly. Your stomach is upset and so is little Lizzie's. Maybe you and your family don’t have the flu. Maybe you have the common cold.

Rejoicing in the Well

With their coloured-in noses of illness, Michael and Elizabeth Patterson reminded me of the Grinch and Cindy-Lou Who from The Grinch that Stole Christmas. They somehow looked a little cuter than they usually do. I liked that panel.

My second-favourite panel is Panel 4, where Elly is about to step over the panel boundary into our world, until little Lizzie’s coughing fit stops here. We came so close to getting a “Elly in a real-world dimension” story-line. Imagine Elly interacting with Lynn Johnston.

Strip #1

Elly: Who are you?
Lynn: I’m Lynn Johnston.
Elly: Where am I?
Lynn: My art studio
Elly: Is there anyone else here?
Lynn: No. I fired them because they didn’t tell me that my husband was having an affair with one of them.
Elly: Hum. Can you send me back to where I came from?

Strip #2

Elly: So, you work as a comic strip artist. Do you have any children?
Lynn: I have two children.
Elly: Are they married?
Lynn: No.
Elly: And you said your husband had affair and left you?
Lynn: That’s right.
Elly: {Thought-bubbling} Loser!
Lynn: You better not be thought-bubbling about me!

Strip #3

Elly: Look at these comic strips. They look just like me and my family.
Lynn: That’s right. I am your creator.
Elly: Except I am not that fat.
Lynn: You are this time.
Elly: What?
Lynn: I decided to redo my old stories.
Elly: And make me fat?
Lynn: It’s OK. I also made you stupid.

I notice the theme for illness with the new-runs is not so much taking care of the person who is ill, but taking pride in the persons who are not ill. Germaphobe Elly from January 29 makes her reappearance here as she is on the verge of rejoicing that she has managed to keep Lizzie from getting sick. And congratulations to Lynn Johnston for once, not resorting to the triangle mouth of terror as new-run Elly realizes that Lizzie is sick.

As always, when Elly mentions soup I am reminded of her sploit soup strip. On the other hand, as Elly tells Michael he is out of school for another 2 days according to the doctor, it makes me wonder what Michael has. When my kids were Michael’s age and had to stay home from school from a cold or the flu, the general rule-of-thumb for staying home had more to do with their body temperature and how sick they felt than some arbitrary “2 days”.

On the other hand, it made my day to see Elly say, “You can watch a movie.” I know VCRs existed back in 1980, but I never thought the Pattersons had one. After all, stingy John wouldn’t even put up the money for a dishwasher.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Will the Real Elly Patterson Please Stand Up?

Yeesh! I spent most of yesterday’s Blog entry talking about what an astonishingly uncaring parent new-run Elly was, and then Lynn Johnston follows it up with a reprint in today's For Better or For Worse that shows a caring and responsive Elly Patterson. She looks miserable, and she thinks about how she is caring for her child as her mother cared for her, except her mother looked better while she was doing it. It is remarkable that no matter what happens to Elly in her life, she still pays attention to how bad she looks.

In the meantime, the humidifier next to Michael brings back memories of when we used to have one of those. And of course, the look of sick Michael in bed alternatively reminds me of a muppet or a Charles Schulz drawing. I am not sure which one. And the giant medicine bottle, instead of the nicely coloured medicine for today’s modern children, brings back not-so-fond memories of medicine from years gone by. I guess I can just think of this as a nostalgia strip. All those things I remember from my youth, including an Elly Patterson who cares for her kids.

Today I am with the Boy Scouts backpacking to a place called Hutches Pools, and I will not be snarking tomorrow’s strip for the Howard Bunt Blog. See you late Sunday or Monday.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sick Kid, Sicker Parent

I remember my wedding anniversary in 1998. My wife and I were unable to find a babysitter to handle our kids for us; so decided to celebrate by going out to a nice restaurant with the kids. While were there, my daughter started to get very clingy. She wanted me to hold her close; because she did not feel good. So I did. Then my daughter drenched my back with vomit. She felt a lot better after that, and my wife had a great laugh. In fact, whenever we recall that anniversary, she still thinks it’s funny. I consider the moment to be a parental badge of honour.

So, when I saw today’s new-run in For Better or For Worse, I wonder about old Elly Patterson. The Pattersons seem to have issues with hugging children in need. I remember back in the October 1, 2006 strip, where Meredith gets her hand slammed in a door and Michael just sits there and waits for her to start crying until he reaches out to her. If you wonder where Michael got that, just look at today’s story, where Elly doesn’t reach out to comfort Michael until he cries. In today’s story, the joke is supposed to be that germaphobe Elly learns that comforting her child is more important than issuing her lecture on how not to spread communicable diseases. It’s kind of hard to believe she’s been a parent for 5 years, when she keeps acting like she’s a maiden aunt who’s never taken care of a kid before. This is the reason why this strip doesn’t work. If this were Uncle Phil instead of Elly, then it would be a case of Phil learning to care for a sick child. Since this is Elly, mother of two, mom for over 5 years and a person who considers herself to be a better mom than her neighbours; the story just makes me wonder what is wrong with her.

Here I am in the same situation:

My kid: Mom, I don’t feel very well. I think I got a fever.

Me: {Put my hand to my kid’s head}. You’re hot. Why don’t you lie down and I’ll get you some medicine.

My snarking self: Hey Michael! How can you possibly say, “I don’t feel very well” instead of “I don’t feel good” and then follow that up with “I think I got a fever” instead of “I think I have a fever” or better yet “I’m hot”? With these kind of language skills, it’s no wonder your mother can’t get the truth about your fight with Lawrence out of you. She’s too confused by your mixture of dialogue from Dennis the Menace and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Hey Elly! Your kid just has a cold. You don’t have to act like you are trying to cover up a scandal. Kids get sick, eh? Even your kids.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Dust Cloud Battle

The dust cloud battle was the sign of fighting in the old For Better or For Worse and could have been lifted from any of a variety of sources (Beetle Bailey, Peanuts). The modern version of battle is the circular slugfest last seen on Friday between Mike and Lawrence. It’s interesting that Lynn would put the two styles so close together in her comic strip; because it points out again that she is no longer trying to emulate her old style.

As for the topic of the strip, I can relate to a certain degree. I have told this story before, most recently in relation to the story about Deanna cutting Robin’s hair while he is sleeping and mentions that toenails are on her list for the next day.

My son hated having his nails cut when he was little. Unfortunately as an infant and toddler, he had very thin nails, which were like little razor blades. To keep him from slicing himself up when he scratched; and slicing us, when we held him; he had to have his nails cut short. To do this, I had to wrap my arms and legs around him to restrain him and my wife would grab the hand and trim it. He would fight us with all his might and would often be sweaty after a good trimming. Eventually he got older and with age, these problems went away. In fact, by the time he was age 5, which is Michael’s age, he was well old enough to allow us to trim his fingernails and toenails without any struggle.

This is the degree of the story to which I cannot relate. Michael seems a little old to me. No doubt, little Aaron, on whom Michael was modeled, had anger issues and made an issue over toenail cutting when he was 5. This is probably the source of the strip. However, I will note that unlike my situation with my son, where the mom and dad teamed up to get the unpleasant task done, John Patterson appears to be on his own. Years later, when Deanna was trimming Robin, at least she had some help from Michael.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Checks in my Pants and I Need to Dance

The joke in today's reprint of For Better or For Worse is that John leaves checks in his pants and Elly doesn’t check pants pockets before she puts things in the laundry. Ahem! Well that is a knee-slapper!

The part which does not match my experience is that the check is completely shredded when Elly pulls it out of the wash, into several pieces. Most times when I have missed a paper something in the wash, it usually wads up into a wet ball. Now if I missed a tissue, then that will shred up if pressed to continue on. My daughter’s favourite thing to leave is lip balm, which gets all over everything if it runs through the wash.

So, ladies and gentlemen, aside from the horror of seeing John Patterson’s naked bosom; we can take comfort in the fact that Elly hand-washes all the clothing using the clothes washer as a sink and while speaking the word “GRUMMM”.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Watch Those Hands!

My perverted brain looked at yesterday’s strip with young Michael’s hands full of hair gel to give Farley the dog a Mohawk. I don’t know why it did not occur to me sooner, but the final panel looks like Michael is putting his hand on an improper place with Farley in the last panel. So, in today’s For Better or For Worse, I was distracted by the placement of young Michael’s hand in every panel. It is my imagination, or is Michael wiping his hands on John Patterson’s pants? In panel 3, he seems particularly intent on something.

As on September 24, 2008; today’s new-run features something rarely seen in the original For Better or For Worse, i.e. John and Michael talking about something important to Michael, his problem with girls. In September, the girl was his little sister Elizabeth. Today, I presume it is Deanna Sobinski, but the strip does not tell us anything more than it is a girl. With this, the second week dealing with the move of Deanna, I suspect Lynn may be moving past the point of no return on the reprint strips to come in the next 3 years that featured Deanna before she disappeared. Elly’s weekly letter discussed it this week, and now John and Mike are talking about it. That means we are going to dwell on it for the rest of the week. Oh goody!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Michael = Hair Dresser

The oddest part about today’s For Better or For Worse is "why?" Why isn’t Mike doing Farley’s hair with a friend? My sisters used to put ribbons and hair clasps into our dog’s hair; but they did it together. It was not an “alone” type of activity. Michael has taken these hair products and used them on Farley for his own enjoyment, or perhaps it is the means by which he expresses his art. There is no sense he plans to show off his handiwork to others; so I guess that young Michael is actually expressing his hair-dressing art. Fill in your favourite connection between Michael, hidden homosexuality, and hairdressers.

The final panel is not drawn very well, but I think young Michael has given Farley a Mohawk from his back to his Dr. Seuss-style attached head. That’s quite a bit of hair stuff in Farley’s fur and I wonder how he got Farley to stand still and take that kind of treatment. The answer is that Farley is a wonder dog, and incredible with children, and be sure to buy his book when it comes out in April.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Corn Popper – Most Hated Toy Ever

If there was a couple I detested and they had a child, I would buy them the Corn Popper toy. After I got married, my wife put a stop to that. Of course my sister bought my kid one and my response to her was, “Do you hate me?” At that point, she revealed that she loved those toys which were the bane of my existence long before I had children. In retrospect that may have been one of the reasons she loved it.

There is something about the relentlessly loud popping noise of the Corn Popper which pushed all my buttons. It was like the popping sounds were vibrating against my spine to try and cripple me. It was always one of my fears going to baby showers for my kids or to my kids’ early birthdays, some person would buy my kid a Corn Popper toy and I was going to have to resist every impulse to avoid shrieking, “Why? Have you no decency? What did I do to you? I never want to speak to you again!” As I see Elly Patterson grimacing in pain at the sound of this abomination of children’s toys, I finally have a strip in For Better or For Worse with which I can totally relate. Of course, it’s a reprint.

Friday, January 16, 2009

When Lawrence Talks, Mutants Listen

It is an interesting phenomenon of Lynn Johnston’s artistry in For Better or For Worse, that if she is drawing a townsperson or other kids in school who are not our leads, invariably one or more them will have gaps in their teeth. Is this some of slight against Dr. John Patterson’s dentistry, or is she pointing out that most people in Milborough can’t afford good dental work? No matter how bad their teeth are, it appears that gap-toothed Milborough mutants have no problems hearing.

As for our Deanna Sobinski, she may actually have some hearing difficulty. The seldom-mentioned fact about Deanna is that she has a slight lisp. Add to that the fact that according to Michael, Deanna seems to have missed what Lawrence said about his liking her, when everyone else did not. Perhaps Deanna has a hearing problem. Oftentimes children with slight lisps or other speech defects have their origins with difficulty in hearing. Maybe Lynn Johnston is about to launch into a discussion about Deanna’s hearing and speech difficulties and we will actually learn something about Deanna we did not know before. Maybe Deanna just thought she heard her parents talking about moving for a new job when, in reality, they were talking about something which will happen in a few years. It’s time that people with speech and hearing problems have their forum in this comic strip. After all, Shannon Lake got to trumpet her cause with special needs. Grandpa Jim got to inform us about the effects of multiple strokes. Elizabeth got to inform us of the effect of her frontal lobotomy on choosing a marital partner. Let Deanna have her turn.

Another thing which jumped out at me is how Lawrence reacts to the pummeling he gets from Mike. Mike tries to excuse it by saying other people heard what Lawrence said; but I am beginning to sense a pattern of abuse between Michael and Lawrence. If you look at this strip reprinted from last year, you can see that Michael is not afraid to use physical threats against Lawrence. Either he is Lawrence’s physical superiour, or Lawrence is less inclined to use physical violence to get his way. From Lawrence’s perspective, he was just teasing Mike and Mike overreacted. Not only that, but as usual, Mike is completely unrepentant about the matter.

Let us not forget to mention the teacher. 2 boys are fighting, and then they go outside. Do you (a) ignore the fight with no repercussions to the boys over their fight or (b) watch them like hawks to make sure they don’t fight again? If you chose (a), then you are fit to teach Michael and Lawrence, and a whole lotta mutants.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Fight

Just yesterday, Michael Patterson went up to Deanna Sobinski and when told the news that she would be moving said, “New friends? But-what about me?” There are a number of ways that can be taken, but judging from today’s strip in For Better or For Worse, one of those ways apparently isn’t that Michael likes Deanna. Oh no. Michael’s real interest was in making a joke about new friends vs. old friends where the old friends are not even 6 yet.

All that business of yesterday, where Michael chases after Deanna and he gets all upset that she is moving, clearly gives away how he feels about her. And yet, today’s strip is as if that strip never happened. Michael stops talking to Deanna. Michael is pushing around a mound of snow and when Lawrence shows up, Michael gets into a fight with him over telling Deanna he likes her. Hey, Michael! She already knows. You gave her your pudding cup. You’re getting into a fight with Lawrence over her. I think she is smart enough to figure it out.

Even more mysterious is Lawrence’s reaction to Michael’s news. After being told Deanna is moving, why would his first reaction be to announce Michael’s feelings about Deanna to her? How about, “Hey, Deanna. Michael says you’re moving. What’s up with that? I thought you were going to stick around at least until the Grade 4 Hallowe’en dance.” Deanna says, “The sooner you get out of town the better. By the way, you and your mom should move to Thunder Bay now and not wait 4 years.”

On the other hand, maybe a teacher will come out and lecture Michael and Lawrence about race relations. That would make it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Story Lynn Couldn’t Wait to Tell

Today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse came as a little bit of a shock to those of us familiar with the Deanna and Michael story enough to remember that Deanna Sobinski’s last appearance with Michael was at a Hallowe’en dance during Grade 4 (or 5?). Unless Lynn Johnston is planning to do as slow-moving a storyline for Deanna leaving as Lynn did with Elly’s retirement (Elly says, “I think I’ll retire” and then 3 years later, retires), we are going to see Deanna depart to Burlington before Michael turns 6. I am not sure how things are in Canada, but in Tucson, they generally like the kids to be 6 years old before they begin Grade 1.

I have a pretty good idea what has happened. Some months back when Lynn was listing new stories she planned to insert into the reprints, Lynn Johnston promised that she would tell the secret story about why Deanna left Milborough. Apparently Lynn can’t wait the 5 years or so until Deanna actually leaves to tell that story. She has to tell it now. As to whether or not this impatience means the straight reprints are imminent, I don’t know. It could just as easily be yet another example where Lynn fails to research her own material, as it was when she grew the Nichols kids thinking they were already old when Farley the dog first appeared, or when she forgot Frank the fish was really Fred the fish, or when she forgot the Crows were really the Cranes, etc., etc.

The funny part is that even though Lynn Johnston was anxious to tell this story, she has told it wrong. Let me show you:

12/18/97 strip dialogue

Elly: So, Deanna – you and Michael have known each other for quite a while!
Deanna: We met in grade school, actually.
Elly: And you’re studying pharmacy.
Deanna: I have another year to go before I graduate.
Elizabeth: Your family lives in Burlington?
Deanna: Uh-huh. – My mom’s a nurse and my dad owns a hardware store.
John: A HARDWARE store?
Michael (to Deanna): …You’re in.

That’s right. “Owns a hardware store”. Not “got a new job.” In case you wonder about the long term history of that, I will now point you to the all-time best monthly letter from Deanna Sobinski Patterson and the pertinent quote related to Wilf’s employment:

Deanna's Letter, May 2004

Mom was, and is, a social climber. The fact that dad had a hardware store held her back some. She preferred to say that he was "in business," until the place grew and he became quite well known and successful.

There you have it. Wilf has owned this hardware store for a long time and he is successful. The obvious story choice for the Sobinski’s moving is that Wilf discovered a hardware store was for sale in Burlington for cheap and wanting his own business, he decided to buy it and move his family to Burlington. That’s no big secret and it actually works with the existing strips. As we have it, the big secret Lynn Johnston promised to tell us of Deanna Sobinski’s move to Burlingon is less accurate and less interesting than the one hinted at by Lynn Johnston back in 1997.

As for the art, I am waiting for Deanna to take that snowball in her hands and clobber Mike with it. Little Mr. Sensitive needs it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mike is Nonviolent, Deanna Likes Violent

Today’s For Better or For Worse presents an interesting series of retcons:

1. As opposed to 1980, Lawrence and Michael do not actually fight.

2. Deanna turns out to be a young lady who seems to appreciate a boy who will be violent on her behalf, instead of that passive aggressive lump she marries later on. She must have gone to the Elizabeth Patterson School of Man Appreciation.

3. For the second time this week, Michael insults Deanna to her face, and not only is he not using it as a ploy to get her attention; but immediately regrets insulting her.

The more we continue on, new-run Michael seems less and less like his old self. He is sensitive to being taunted about Deanna. Despite his verbal blunders, he seems very responsive to her feelings. New-run Michael appears to be the nicest Michael of all, for what that is worth. He is certainly nicer than old-run Michael from 1980, and he beats 2008 grown-up Michael by a huge margin. I think it is fairly safe to say that Lynn Johnston’s intent with the new-runs is not to expand on the old characters, or expand on the old storylines; but flat out change the character in a story vaguely similar to the original.

Artwise, Deanna’s stunted arms in panels 3 and 4 bugged me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Old-run to New-Run Transformation Part II

Once again we continue our theme in For Better or For Worse of redoing first year strips as new-runs. In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse, Lynn Johnston is doing an adaptation of this strip. In it, young Michael reveals that he got a picture of Deanna Sobinski by beating up Lawrence for it. As we know from modern times, Lawrence was revealed to be not only a homosexual but also not a Caucasian, as his father was from Brazil. These 2 characteristics prevent him from being a viable candidate as Deanna’s Sobinski’s love interest.

Back in 1980 we didn’t already know this, so Lawrence could well have been a rival of Mike for Deanna. However, it does mean that story of Michael’s fight over Deanna in the first year has to be written so that is clear to everyone that Lawrence wasn’t really interested in Deanna; but just got in a fight because he had been needling Mike about his obvious obsession with Deanna Sobinski due to his pudding cup exchange with her. After all, everyone knows that in addition to 6-year-old straight boys being obsessed with the one girl whom they will marry and feed pudding; homosexual boys already know at age 6 that they are homosexuals and must act accordingly.

The other interesting part of this strip is how violence is represented. Back on 11/9/2008; Michael and Richard Nichols’ got into a fight and each “bop”ped each other on their respective heads and then turned their backs on each other, as if that ended their fight. In today’s new-run, Michael “bop”s Lawrence on the head, which seems to cause him to have a spasm of laughter. Deanna Sobinski “BOOF”ed Michael in the stomach, which left Michael thinking of his poor poetry skills. Back in 1980, Deanna “WAAP”ed him right across the face, so hard she almost caused him to fall over. 1980s Deanna knew how to fight. I don’t know what to think about these new-run characters, who seem to be following the Marquess of Queensberry rules. Perphaps they have been to the Anthony Caine School of Self-Defence.

We also see today, the second appearance of the art teacher, an African-Canadian woman who favours a scarf around her head. I find it amusing that we have seen her so much after Beth Cruikshank wrote that giant biography of Shelagh Campbell, Mike and Lawrence’s Grade 1 teacher, whom we have not even seen one time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

One old-run = Two new-runs

I actually wrote a question to the website page Elly's Coffee Talk about this. Like my other Coffee Talk question asking for new adventures of Fred the fish, I am surprised to see an answer in the strip related to my question. The question was: Are you going to reprint the first year strips you leapt over to get to the Farley the dog reprints in the second year? In today’s For Better or For Worse new-run we see the answer is, “No. I am going to redo those strips into new-runs.”

In Deanna Sobinski’s very first appearance, she was seen pushing a toy around in a baby carriage. Mike greeted her by calling her “Wart-Head” and “Deanna, Deanna, fat as a pianna”. Then Deanna belted him and Mike thought-bubbled, “She touched me”. This punchline was duplicated to a certain degree back on 11/28/2008 with the punchline of Mike thinking, “She tsked me.” Today’s new-run uses the same rhyme as that appearance with a similar reaction from Deanna. There are a some important differences:

1. We know from Michael’s prior new-run-in with Deanna that he is obsessed with her, so unlike Deanna’s first appearance, there is no surprise when Michael goes from his insults (making you think he does not like her) to his punchline (when you find he does like her). That part of the joke is lost.

2. Michael’s insults are played not as the standard schoolboy attempt to get the attention of a girl he likes, but as a misguided attempt at poetry. With this, Lynn takes steps away from a realistic portrayal. How many little boys insult little girls they like vs. how many boys think about writing bad, impromptu poetry and saying it out loud to the girl they like? I can see Lynn Johnston looking at the original strip and thinking, “Why was Michael so mean to Deanna? I don’t get it; so let me fix it up a bit so it makes sense to me.”

3. Michael is no longer excited that Deanna touched him and instead is more concerned about his inability to write poetry. Sorry, Deanna. The second time around, Mike is just not that into you. Even at 6 years old, his writing is starting to take precedence.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Can’t See the Beauty For the Mess

Today’s For Better or For Worse is a new-run and is also a repeat of a common theme for the strip, i.e. Dad and/or children have fun and leave a mess for Elly to clean up. In today’s version of the story, it is particularly poignant, because the participants create very nice paper snowflakes. Whether Elly ever sees them or not, I do not know; because the joke stops with Elly seeing their mess. The subtext is that Elly never gets to see the beauty created by her family because her obsession with messes and cleaning gets in the way.

I am reminded of a quote attributed to the late, great American composer Charles Ives, which was something like: “If you listen too closely to the notes, you may miss the music.” Or the classic “She can’t see the trees for the forest.” As a parent, it is one of the struggles in life. It takes a certain amount of cleaning to keep it up where you live. On the other hand, is spending so much time cleaning your house worth the loss of time you have with your kids? This is particularly important to me because I work during the week, and most of my time with my kids is a few scant hours during the evenings and the time during the weekends. This Saturday, I drove the kids to the Arizona State Grade Chess Championships in Mesa, Arizona (a 105-minute drive), where they played 5 games separated by 1:45 between each match. We then had supper with the chess team from their school and drove back home and were back by about 10:45 pm. Number of hours of cleaning = 0. But the number of hours seeing how my kids did in their chess competitions was much higher.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Frank? Who dat?

The first new character introduced in the new-runs of For Better or For Worse was Fred the fish. Ironically, I just sent a Elly's Coffee Talk letter requesting more time with Fred, thinking I was being funny because I thought Fred would never appear again. In today’s new-run of For Better or For Worse (after a 6 strip run of reprints – our second longest), a new fish appears and his name is Frank, not Fred. There are a lot of good plot explanations why this would happen (Mike misspoke, different fish, fish renamed, etc.); however we know the real culprit is Lynn Johnston. She has misnamed her own characters so many times; it’s just a matter of time before she renames the main character to Ellen, after watching The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

As for a puppy drinking out of the fish bowl, as near as I can tell from internet research, if the fish is sensitive to certain bacteria and that bacteria was in Farley’s mouth, then Frank the fish is over. Judging from the number of websites addressing the topic, the situation of dogs drinking fish bowl water is not that uncommon.

However, the most intriguing part of this story is Michael’s explanation.

“I wanted Farley an’ Frank to meet each other…So, Frank had him over for a drink!!”

Does it seem familiar? Now for a little substitution to make this make more sense.

“I wanted Phil an’ Connie to meet each other…So, Connie had him over for a drink!!”

Michael is simply imitating his mother, and we new-run readers, who are anxious for any additional details, can now determine that the time when Phil and Michael went over to Connie’s house so Phil could meet Connie Poirier for the first time, Connie had him over for a drink.

Need more proof than that? Look at Farley’s face in the last panel. That dog is loopy from drinking.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

Some of my favourite elements appear in today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse.

There’s John Patterson who goes to bed shirtless even in the dead of winter. I can see 3 chest hairs and I think we have a hint of a nipple on his moob (man boob). There are those little fleas in almost every panel and I still don’t know what they are.

There is Lynn Johnston slamming a family member by using their comic strip avatar. In this case it is her brother. I don’t know if Lynn Johnston’s brother ever got married; but I find it interesting that after painting such a bleak picture of Uncle Phil in marriage, Lynn Johnston eventually got around to marrying him off in her comic strip in defiance of Elly’s own prognostication.

We also get the old, standard “a woman preparing for bed is scary-looking” comic last seen on March 24, 2006. I find these kinds of strips to be particularly amusing with respect to nonsensical comments Lynn Johnston has made in recent interviews about going to bed fully made up; or wearing a thrift store negligee in order to make herself feel attractive going to bed. These comments were coupled with Lynn Johnston’s belief that her husband left her for a more attractive woman. Ironically, in this strip, John Patterson expresses the belief that men stay in marriages if they refuse to see how their wife truly is. After seeing 29 years of Elly Patterson, I can certainly believe that was John Patterson’s method of operating.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Man Who Does Yoga is not Husband Material

When you go back through strips you have seen before as in today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, you concentrate on the strange little things tha you did not notice the first time. In this case, as Elly Patterson ticks off the list of reasons why her brother is not marriage material for Connie Poirier, I notice that she includes yoga.

The list is:

a. He’s independent. That’s a nice way of saying, “He won’t do what you want him to do.”

b. His life is music. In other words, “You come second to his career.”

c. His life is late nights. He will sleep late in the morning.

d. He practices at 3 a.m. This statement doesn’t really match too well. Is Elly saying that Phil, after playing a late night gig, will then come home and practice at 3 a.m.?

e. He does yoga. This one completely stumps me. What is there about doing yoga that makes a man an incompatible marriage partner?

To answer this question, Iooked up an article on the internet called Seven Common Misconceptions about Yoga. It did not take long to find the culprits.

Miconception #3. Yoga is only for women. Elly interpretation: Phil is effeminate, and Elly prefers nerdy guys.

Misconception #7. Incense should be burned when practicing yoga: Elly interpretation: Phil is a drug abuser.

Visually, the best panel is panel #4 where it appears that Elly is deep in concentration to levitate that coffee cup. This especially works, since Elly had no coffee cup in the prior 3 panels.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em

From the most popular definition of “Love 'em and Leave 'em” is:

1)(v)To have sex with someone and possibly make them think you love them, then leave and break off the relationship.

In today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, it strikes me that Elly is less concerned with Connie’s implication of Phil having sex with her and more concerned about the part where he may have made her think he was in love with her. From Lynn Johnston’s perspective, she cannot address the sex directly for fear of alienating her audience, so she has Elly address the only issue she can address directly – did Phil actually mislead Connie or did he just take Connie on a “date with benefits”? Connie admits to Elly that she was not misled by Phil; but ultimately we know she is not going to let this go.

As we have discussed in the Howard Bunt Blog before, there are many women who believe sex = love with the intent to marry. Connie Poirier is apparently one of these. As her upcoming trip to Montreal is about to prove, she believes that if a man is willing to have sex with her, then he is also willing to have a relationship with her. In essence, she is about to prove that what she said to Elly in today’s For Better or For Worse is a lie.

I have to wonder if back in 1980, the implications of Connie’s statement were understood by the audience. Phil’s late night with Connie where he is unwilling to talk about what happened + Connie’s reference to “love ‘em and leave ‘em” spells it out pretty clearly. Back in 1980, Connie was a simple divorcee from ex-husband Pete, who was like many other ex-husbands out there. Perhaps women could relate to Connie, doing what she could to try and find a husband. When Pablo da Silva was added into the storyline some years later, it changed Connie from not only a woman who used sex to get a husband, but also a woman who would make a baby in an effort to get a husband. Back in 1980, Connie was humourously desperate, but with new-run Connie and her history with Lawrence’s birth tossed in the mix; it's hard to enjoy the strip for what it once was.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Farewell to Phil

As I was looking at today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, a curious interpretation occurred to me. We see Phil and Michael in 3 of the 4 panels alone, but the 3rd panel is a silent penultimate panel with Elly and John and Lizzie there looking on at Phil and Michael. The traditional use of a silent penultimate panel is to let you know that there is something visual in the panel which influences the timing of the story or the punch line of the strip. In this case, the punch line is Mike’s response to Phil’s statement “Big boys don’t cry!” Mike says, “How big is big?”

I looked at that response from Mike with respect to the additional visual in the silent penultimate panel, and realized that Mike’s questioning response is related to his family. They are the additional visual not present in any other panel. It occurred to me that Mike does not want Uncle Phil to leave not because he will miss Uncle Phil. Mike doesn’t want Uncle Phil to leave, because Mike is being left with John and Elly and Lizzie. After 29 years of reading this strip, I can see his point.

The next part is Mike’s question. “How big is big?” Obviously, the teary Mike does not consider himself to be big at that moment. If you take the logic to the next step, Mike, after looking at his family, could anticipate crying for many more years to come. You could interpret Mike’s question to mean, “At what point am I expected to be big enough to stop crying over the fact you are leaving me with John and Elly and Lizzie, because it’s not happening any time soon?”

As for the actual plot line of Mike weeping over Phil’s departure, this is where we really could have used a new-run to give us an idea of why Mike is so emotional. We saw Phil make pizza for Mike (and the rest of the family). Perhaps Mike is tearful over being forced to eat Elly's diet cooking again; but if that were the case, then Lizzie and John would be crying too.

We saw Phil take Mike to see Santa, but we did not see what happened there. We saw Phil take Mike to visit Lawrence, but we did not see what happened there. There were Mike and Phil bonding moments, but each time we saw them leaving and nothing about what happened. Instead of all that nothing, imagine how much understandable Mike's tears would be, if we had seen strips like these:

Strip #1

Phil: So, what did you ask Santa to give you for Christmas?
Mike: I asked Santa to make Deanna Soblinski fall in love with me.
Phil: Deanna Sobinski? Who’s that?
Mike: She’s in my class. We are going to get married and have children and live together in Milborough.
Phil: How old are you?
Mike: 6
Phil: You look like you’re 6, but you sound like your dialogue was written by your mother.

Strip #2:

Phil: You want to marry this Deanna Sobinksi girl. What if she moves?
Mike: What do you mean?
Phil: What if her parents get a job in some other town and moved?
Mike: I think I’ll kill myself.
Phil: Why would you do that?
Mike: Mom says since she got married, unmarried men are dead to her.

Strip #3

Phil: Instead of marrying Deanna Sobinksi, you should try some other girls first to experiment. What about that elf over there?
Mike: Deanna is prettier.
Phil: How about the girl standing behind Santa? What do you think of her?
Mike: Deanna is prettier.
Phil: How about that greasy-looking kid, carrying a camera, with the potato nose, dark glasses, wearing that all black Weeder Industries shirt? I’ll bet he’s not as good as Deanna either, eh?
Mike: Deanna who?

Strip #4

Mike: Mom wants you to meet my friend Lawrence's mom.
Phil: Is she pretty?
Mike: Deanna is prettier.
Phil: Is she the kind of desperate, crazy, single woman who would follow me back to Montreal and surprise me?
Mike: Oh, yeah!
Phil: Then why should I meet her?
Mike: Lawrence says most men tell him they like his mom because she is easy.
Phil: Great!

Strip #5

Phil: Did you say your friend Lawrence says most men tell him they like his mom because she is easy.
Mike: Yes, what does "easy" mean?
Phil: Ask your mother.
Mike: No, really.
Phil: It means it would be easy to have a nice visit with Lawrence's mom.
Mike: How easy?
Phil: I'll let you know after we visit her.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New-run vs. Old-runs

Lynn Johnston originally said that September would be all new and then from thereafter, there would about 50% new-runs for the first year. So far she has kept that promise:

September - 30 days new-runs
October - 19 of 31 days new-runs
November – 16 of 30 days new-runs
December – 11 of 31 days new-runs

Even though the number from October to December average at about 50% as Lynn promised, I notice a definite downward trend in the number of new-runs. 3 less in November and 5 less in December. If Lynn continues on this trend, then we could expect about 7 new-runs in January, 3 new-runs in February and no new-runs in March. On the other hand, the reason for the decrease in new-runs could be directly related to Lynn’s desire to take a long holiday in December and November. January will become a crucial month for establishing if December’s numbers were a fluke due to the holidays, or part of the trend.

Crucial things I notice in December:

1. Anne Nichols is set on having that one child and not mentioning his name and the child is about Lizzie’s age. Anne and child finally matches hers and her child’s appearance in the reprint strips. This shows that Lynn may be closer to ready to go to straight reprints, since Anne and her child are finally straightened out.
2. Lynn has stopped introducing new Farley storylines and is resorting to showing Farley much more often in the background. This shows that the big push for Farley may be over.

As for today’s reprint in For Better or For Worse, it plays to one of Lynn Johnston’s all time favourite bits of humour (aside from jokes about body functions), the comparison between the child and adult perspective. In this case, the children take the standard position of “Christmas is too short” to constract with the adult standard position of “Christmas is too long.” There is nothing new about this comparison even back in 1980. However, what makes the strip for me is the wine glass and the beer bottle lying on its side on the floor in the final panel. You don’t see that kind of thing on the floor when the Family Circus does this exact same joke.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Elly Treats Lizzie Like a Bitch

We don’t see the outcome of today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse. I predict little Lizzie will not take the broccoli from her mother, who has decided not only to feed her broccoli as she sits under the table, but to talk to her as if she were talking to a dog. The simple fact is that some people can get small children to do things their parents can’t.

In my family, my wife’s mother has always been more successful at getting my kids to eat vegetables than I have or my wife has. Likewise, my son can get my daughter to laugh, when no one else in the family can get her to even crack a smile. Chances are, little Lizzie is only eating the broccoli because her older brother is offering it to her and giving her his attention. She is probably so accustomed to Elly shoving things at her face; she would distrust anything coming from Elly.

Final panel we are missing:

Elly: Why isn’t she eating broccoli when I give it to her?
Mike: From me, it’s a treat. From you, it’s a punishment.

As far as the strip goes, it is not too bad. We get the surprise that it is Lizzie and not Farley under the table. We get the surprise where Elly decides to copy Mike’s method in order to get her to eat broccoli. The story line is long enough to fill all the panels; it sets up humourous surprises; and is somewhat true-to-life. I don’t have too many problems with the art, except Lynn Johnson doesn’t seem to be able to keep track of the chairs around the table, particularly in panel 2. It didn’t distract me much. I would say overall, it’s not a bad strip.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Love and Ballet

The last time we saw a For Better or For Worse character use the ballet position was on February 24, 2006. In today’s For Better or For Worse, Connie Poirier is using an attitude derrière en pointe. Elizabeth Patterson used an attitude à la seconde with a flat foot. Clearly Connie Poirier is the more experienced dancer. However, in Elizabeth’s strip she may have had her ballet move marred somewhat by the fact she knocked Shiimsa the cat in the head while she was doing it. With Connie, there are no feline obstructions. Of course, there was also the ballet moves Anthony and Elizabeth did during Shawna-Marie Verano’s wedding reception, on July 7, 2007; but they are so grotesque, I have a hard time thinking of them as ballet moves.

In any case, it is clear that Lynn Johnston considers persons doing ballet to be an indication that at least one person thinks they are in love. I say “thinks” because, as we all know, 3 months after Elizabeth Patterson was dancing around for Paul Wright, she had that sudden attack of homesickness which led to her running home to chase after the newly-divorced Anthony Caine. Similarly, we know that Connie is going to run into a similar problem with Phil, so I don’t take her ballet move very seriously. The fact that neither Connie nor Phil will tell Elly anything, to the point where Elly thinks the date went poorly, is a little odd. You would think at least one of them would say the date went well. Of course, if they did that, then there would be no joke in today’s new-run.

As for whether Phil and Connie had sexual relationships, today’s strip final panel drawing ends the mystery. Apparently Connie and Phil were so vigorous, her pelvic area has been reversed so her bottom is now the part facing front. You don’t see that everyday. No wonder she looks happy enough to do ballet and think about an eighth note.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Condescending Pat

In today’s reprint of For Better or For Worse, we have Phil coming home a second time from taking out Connie and it is an interesting contrast from the prior time when he came home from visiting Connie in the December 30th strip:

1. On December 30th, Phil apologizes for being late. There is not such apology today, as Elly is waiting up for Phil.

2. On December 30th, Phil had a long description of his and Connie’s conversation. Today, Phil is not talking.

3. On December 30th, Phil angered Elly by listing his opinion of Connie in detail. Today, Phil angered Elly by being out with Connie later than Elly felt he should.

4. On December 30th, Elly plays things nonchalantly, because she does not want Phil to suspect that she set up his meeting with Connie. Today, she is jumping down his throat the minute he walks in the door.

It is easy to assume that Phil’s actions are different in today’s strip because he and Connie did some things which he does not care to repeat to Elly. However, the other possibility is that Phil has changed because Elly’s reaction to him has changed. On December 30th, Elly was not after Phil to find out what happened. In today’s strip, she definitely is. Phil could be, in each case, giving Elly exactly what she does not want, in order to antagonize her. The key ingredient of this is when Phil pats her head as he says, “That’s all I’m going to tell you.”

I just spent a week with my brother-in-law staying in our house for Christmas to New Years, and believe me, sibling antagonization continues to occur even when the siblings are in their 40s. Looking at these strips with those eyes, I can see the story here to be more about Phil and Elly than Phil and Connie, whom we have yet to see together. As for Phil and Connie, what you have is this:

a. Phil uncovers rapidly that his meeting with Connie was setup by his sister. Considering how clueless Phil is in later strips, the implication is that Connie was so obvious in her intent that even a clueless man could pick up on it.

b. The result of the meeting was not that Phil thought Connie and he only had allergies in common. The result of the meeting was Connie asking Phil to take her to her staff New Year’s Eve Party and Phil accepting. I have tortured my wife with staff holiday parties from time-to-time. It is very difficult for a spouse or a date to handle, because they know no one, and often conversation will lead to shop talk. I think it is safe to say that Phil and Connie really hit it off during their first meeting for Connie to extend that invitation and for Phil to accept.

c. In both cases, the 2 meetings between Phil and Connie took longer than one might reasonably expect. Considering Connie’s history with men and Phil’s willingness to discuss blonde nubiles with 6-year-olds, the natural assumption is that they were physically intimate.

d. Whatever happened between Connie and Phil leaves Connie motivated to check out Montreal. I think it is safe to say that they were more than friendly to get that kind of reaction.

Connie and Phil’s New Mom – Elly!!

I think the joke in today’s For Better or For Worse is supposed to be that Elly’s concern for Connie’s treatment by Phil is really Elly’s concern for how Phil’s actions with Connie affect Elly. In other words, it’s the standard “I act like I am concerned, but in reality I am selfish.” I blame the Beatles with their song:

She’s Leaving Home (partial lyric)

Father snores as his wife gets into her dressing gown
Picks up the letter that's lying there
Standing alone at the top of the stairs
She breaks down and cries to her husband
Daddy our baby's gone
Why would she treat us so thoughtlessly
How could she do this to me.

Ever since this song came out, I have seen countless others use the same thing, and I doubt it was original with the Beatles.

Aside from the overused joke, the part which confuses me is why Elly is concerned in the first place. She knows that Connie is desperate to get a man, has used sex, and even the birth of a child out of wedlock to try to convince a man to marry her. If anything, she should be worried about Phil, and whether or not Connie will use the classic, “I’m pregnant?! How did that happen?” routine so common to women in this comic strip, on her brother.

Instead Elly is concerned that Phil will injure vulnerable Connie. “Swept her off her feet” = somehow it’s Phil fault if Connie falls in love with Phil after a single date. “Taking advantage of her vulnerability” = taking advantage of the Connie’s obsessive desire for a husband. This attitude has always irritated me. The 1980s were my single, young man days; and I remember being surprised by the double standard of this attitude. If a woman offered intimacy to a man, she was showing him how much she liked him. If a man took the offer but did not eventually propose marriage to her, he was taking advantage of her. In other words, a man should not accept the intimacy offered by a woman unless he is thinking he might propose to her. Of course if a woman offered intimacy and the man refused her, then...

I expect this attitude has changed somewhat with the current young generation. For example, the young man who served as ring bearer at my wedding 16 years ago, got his girlfriend pregnant, and is now raising his daughter by himself. His girlfriend didn’t want to get married and has no interest in raising a child. If this story from the modern day younger generation is any example, then the days where a woman expected a man to start thinking about marriage with her, once they were physically intimate, are in the past.

Weighing in on the other side, Beyonce Knowles has a different opinion in her song "Single Ladies" in reference to men who do not propose marriage (partial lyric):

Cuz if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it
If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it
Don't be mad once you see that he want it
If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it
Oh oh oh oh oh oh ohhh oh oh oh oh oh oh ohh

So maybe times haven't changed that much since 1980.